Several women entrepreneurs were sharing their wisdom at the Rotman School of Business’s Women’s Conference on Friday. Every year for the past three years, the 4th year students have organized an all-day conference for their peers.
As I arrived at the Four Seasons Hotel, there seemed to be a sea of young women in short navy suits and high, high heels. (how do they walk in them?) They were mainly Commerce students and I’d helped the team this year recruit speakers for the different career panels and agreed to moderate a couple of Entrepreneur panels for them.
Most of the women on the panels were seasoned business owners and on the whole their answers were fairly consistent, except when we got to the discussion around finances.
How they tracked their finances ranged from a daily cash flow statement to an inventory count to an annual financial statement.
But no matter how they counted their money, the panelists were all doing well and it speaks to the fact that there’s never just one way. The key is to develop a system that works for you; and if it’s not working in your favour, adjust and change.
And as for their advice for the new entrepreneur, a common response was to surround yourself with people who had different skill sets and strengths to yourself. One woman went as far as to suggest hiring people brighter than yourself. All acknowledged that while at the start you do have to be the multi-tasker and do everything yourself, once finances allowed, hiring for your weaknesses was an important first step to taking your business to the next level.
But pay yourself first was one strong recommendation. While it may be tempting to pour all the money back into the business, it was important to get paid, and that you value your time.
Hiring and retaining the right staff was identified as another crucial element and once you had a team, determining your core values, mission and purpose became more important as creating a positive work culture impacted your end results and whether people stayed with you for the long haul.
No matter what session I sat in on, one of the questions from the young women in the audience always revolved around work-life balance. Know what that is? Neither do I and I guess they will find out soon enough. Certainly when you start a business, it is your balance sheet you are more worried about, not balancing your life, that’s a lofty dream for the future.
Reality is you have to be passionate, determined and work hard if you want to succeed, and for sure, running your own business is not for everyone.